Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Crazy Woody

Watching the preview of the Woody Woodpecker DVD set at WoodyWoodpecker.com, it occurred to me that the early, crazy Woody -- the one with the long beak, red chest and absolute pride in his own insanity -- always seems strange to me. The early, crazy Woody cartoons are the best, I know that. But because I grew up mostly watching the later Woody Woodpecker, with his more streamlined design and toned-down personality, that is established in my mind as the definitive version of the character. Not the best version, but just the one that comes to mind whenever I think of him.

I think that with any cartoon character who went through multiple designs or developments, we tend to think of one version as the definitive version, even if that's not the one we like best. With Daffy Duck, for example, I prefer the '40s Daffy, but the greedy, nasty late '50s and '60s Daffy is the one who still feels the most "real" to me because that's the characterization I saw most often when I was a kid. Someone who grew up watching Daffy cartoons in the '40s would probably think of that as the "real" Daffy. I wouldn't be at all surprised if there are people who instinctively think of Daffy as the character who chased Speedy Gonzales; no matter how good or bad the cartoons are, they create an image of the character for people who watch them as children.


Anonymous said...

Age and location have a lot to do with this -- if you grew up in the 1960s or 1970s in a big city, with a number of independent TV stations, then chances are you saw the pre-48 Warners cartoons five or six days a week, and the post-48s only on Saturday mornings, while at that time the Lantz syndicated package pretty much stopped at about 1958 or so, which meant you never saw the really bad decline in the studio's cartoons that followed.

Those in smaller cities who grew up during that same period, in cities without the luxury of non-network stations, saw only the post-48 WB cartoons on CBS and ABC, and only got Woody for a few years on NBC's Saturday morning lineup or if their ABC, CBS or NBC station carved out some of its limited late-afternoon free space for kids cartoons. So their experience with the Universal or WB stuff wouldn't be much different than for those who grew up in the 1980s or early 90s, when the later cartoons from both studios were more prevalent on TV.

Anonymous said...

My favorite Woody design is the mid-to-late 1940s version of the character. The original Woody design has to have been one of the ugliest in Technicolor cartoons.

Thad said...

I like all of them, but my favorite is the slick one of the mid-to-late 40s. I own the maquette of the 1941 mentally retarded Woody and it's absolutely awesome.

Rob Bates said...

I think a lot depends on what you were exposed to first -- as a child, watching Bewitched reruns, I saw Dick Seargant as Darrin before I saw Dick York, so I preferred Dick Seargant. However, when I got older I learned that virtually the entire Western World prefers it the other way.

I think much of TV is fundamentally about familiarity.